DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines in a bid to provide an environment suitable for the resumption of peace talks.
“To immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide an enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks, I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective immediately and call on our (fellow) Filipinos in the National Democratic Front and its forces to respond accordingly,” Duterte said during his first State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 25.
During the SONA, Duterte addressed both the Moro rebels and the Communists that he is serious in achieving peace.
“All of us want peace, not the peace of the dead, but the peace of the living. We express our willingness and readiness to go to the negotiating table, and yet we load our guns, fix our sights, pull the trigger. It is both ironic and tragic–and it is endless,” said Duterte.
Duterte said “no amount of cash assistance or number of medals can compensate the loss of a human life.”
“Well, we extol the bravery and heroism of our soldiers. Kayo, the rebels, do the same for the rebels and fighters. What I see instead are the widows and the orphans and I feel their pain and grief,” he said.
“To our Muslim brothers, let us find, let us end the centuries of this mistrust and warfare. To the CPP/NPA/NDF, let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere and it is getting bloodier by the day,” said Duterte.
Duterte said he hopes to achieve a “permanent and lasting peace” before the end of his term.
“That is my goal, that is my dream,” Duterte said.
Meanwhile, Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), said they welcome Duterte’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire and affirmed “that the NDF shared with President Duterte the determination to work for a just and lasting peace.”
In a statement posted on the website of the NDFP, Jalandoni said that the NDFP will respond to the government’s ceasefire declaration after they receive its full text
In his letter to Secretary Silvestre Bello III, chairman of the Negotiating Panel of the Government of the Philippines, Jalandoni said the NDFP “would study it carefully and make the appropriate response.”
He said they assume that the ceasefire declaration of the GRP “is necessarily connected with the release of all current political prisoners under the amnesty proclamation to be issued by the President Duterte and concurred in by a majority of Congress, as referred to by the Oslo Joint Statement of June 15, 2016.”
The resumption of the formal talks between the government and the NDFP is set on August 20-27 in Oslo, Norway.
Meanwhile, Bishop Felixberto Calang, chairperson of the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao, said they see Duterte’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire as a form of a “confidence-building measure” for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDF.
“Most probably maghatag gyud ni siya og maayong atmosphere padulong sa talks (This will provide a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks),” Calang told Davao Today in an interview.
However, Calang said they are expecting that part of the resumption of peace talks is that the government will also address the demands of the indigenous peoples who were displaced due to militarization.
“We want to tell (Pres. Dutere) that the Lumad people are part and parcel of the efforts of the resumption of peace talks and that they still need assistance to ensure that they can return safely to their communities and rebuild their communities,” he said.
Joseph Canlas, chairperson of farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas re-echoed the same sentiment and said that while they welcome the unilateral ceasefire declaration of the government, there should also be a pull out of government troops from the countryside.
“While we welcome Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration with the CPP-NPA-NDF, it should translate to the demilitarization of rural communities and countryside. We demand the AFP to immediately pull-out its troops, abandon our community schools and barangay halls, and dismantle military detachments in our farmlands,” said Canlas.(davaotoday.com)